Monday, March 30, 2020

Woody's new book out, and a Spanish thriller

It’s out. Woody Allen’s new book is seeing the light day after all. After his original publisher, Hachette, dropped an early-April publishing date for Allen’s new autobiography, Apropos of Nothing (see post March 11), a new publisher has come along and published it even earlier! I’ve ordered my copy on Amazon, but the book is only being delivered to US addresses. The publisher is Arcade and its imprint Skyhorse Publishing. So, this is a victory for all of us who believe in free speech and not the weenies at Hachette who backed out after a little controversy - a la, the sexual abuse allegations against Allen and his denial of them.

Meanwhile, with theatres shuttered, how have I been getting through this time of coronavirus semi-lock down?  Not that much differently from how I usually spend time. After all, I work from home. And many of the movies I watch are online anyway. Of recent films I’ve watched on Netflix the best is a new release (as of Friday) called The Occupant (David and Àlex Pastor) and starring the hot Spanish star Javier Gutiérrez (photo left). This is the second time I’ve seen Gutiérrez and, in both roles, he specializes in psychologically creepy characters. Here, as a down and out ad man, he can’t accept the fact his family has to downsize and leave their luxurious apartment. He keeps a set of keys and returns to haunt the new residents. As Javier Muñoz his character is quirky, personable, cantankerous and scheming – there’s no limit as to what this superficially endearing sociopath will do. Gutiérrez, who has won numerous Spanish awards, is fast-becoming one of my must-see actors……Yes, that was a good Netflix film. But too often films on Netflix fall just below what they aspire to be. One example is The Duchess (Saul Dibb 2008) starring Keira Knightley, Ralph Fiennes and Charlotte Rampling. The story: it’s the 18th Century and Knightley as Georgiana is married to Duke of Devonshire William Cavendish (Fiennes). But, like the modern era Diana’s marriage to Charles, the marriage is loveless, and Georgiana is ultimately humiliated by the philandering William. The sets and costumes are perfectly lush but the plot meanders with a kind of repetition with little insight into the characters’ motives, thoughts and desires. The same is true with another Netflix film, A Little Chaos (Alan Rickman 2014). Again, an intriguing premise about a woman landscape architect Sabine de Barra (Kate Winslet) hired to design a Gardens of Versailles amphitheater and fountain. The film starts out well, showing the predictable struggles of a brilliant female nobody trying to imprint her vision on the emerging Versailles. And while it’s obvious she struggles, there are no increasing obstacles or clashes of personalities – sexism or otherwise - to overcome, in order to give the film greater tension and excitement. The plot merely plods along on an even keel and unfortunately, we’re glad when it’s over.

Oh, and for all those coronavirus shut-ins or people who simply like watching good films anytime, here's another reminder to take out a subscription to the fabulous website, Criterion Channel. With a vast array of independent and foreign films it's like having an art house cinema in your computer. Enjoy!

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